Responding to publication of the UK Government’s Trade Bill and announcement of the forthcoming Taxation and Customs Bill, Tim Aldred, Head of Policy, at the Fairtrade Foundation commented:
“It is concerning to see no commitment to developing countries in the Trade Bill. We understand that the forthcoming Customs Bill will make provision for developing countries to receive preferential access to UK markets. However, such welcome provisions are at risk of being undermined by deals with countries like the US, Australia and emerging economies which will be governed by the Trade Bill.
“Trade deals with large economies can have big impacts – positive or negative – on developing countries, by disrupting trade or changing regulations. It is vital that all forthcoming deals are properly assessed to avoid unintended knock-on damage to poverty reduction and human rights, as well as making the most of any opportunities. Without a clear requirement in the Trade Bill to prioritise positive outcomes for developing countries, in line with the UK’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, developing countries could all too easily end up with a raw deal.
“We have called for parliament to be at heart of future negotiations with a clear mandate and robust powers of scrutiny, so that the concerns of Fairtrade farmers and workers and others in developing countries can be raised. The proposal to agree trade deals through executive powers and statutory instruments will mean that democratic accountability on trade is reduced. MPs will have fewer powers of scrutiny than members of the European Parliament do at present.
“For public trust to be built in trade as we leave the European Union, standards of parliamentary accountability on trade should go up, not down.”